Recollections on the Passing of Former Parsons Faculty, Jane Wilson

Artist Jane Wilson, whose sixty-year career established her as one of the leading landscape painters of the postwar era, died earlier this month in New York, at the age of 90. Parsons AMT Faculty Michael Kirk recalls Wilson and their shared experience of Parsons back in the 1970’s.

Jane Wilson, Southampton, New York, August 1996, "The Whitney Project." Photograph by John Jonas Gruen.

Jane Wilson, Southampton, New York, August 1996, “The Whitney Project.” Photograph by John Jonas Gruen.

“I was just 25 when I started at Parsons in the fall of 1973. I was hired to oversee the print shop as well as begin to build it. Jane was also a new hire for the newly re-created Fine Arts department, which had been dormant for quite some time. Parsons had just moved from Midtown in 1971 to 2 West 13th Street, and the Fine Arts department was located in the penthouse above the 6th floor where our present Dean has his office. In total, Parsons had 400 students and maybe 20 or so Fine Arts students. Jane Wilson joined the likes of Eilaine DeKooning and Larry Rivers to teach painting, along with a group of younger painters such as Stuart Shedlesky and Kes Zapikis.  A year later,  with Jane’s help, Fine Arts was moved to the top floor of 24 E 13th. I am positive Jane’s advice factored into its expansion and, ultimately, the growth of Fine Arts at Parsons.”

Jane Wilson in front her painting, The Open Scene, 1960. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Photograph by John Jonas Gruen, May 1960.

Jane Wilson in front her painting, The Open Scene, 1960. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Photograph by John Jonas Gruen, May 1960.

“Jane and the other members of the Fine Arts department were all mentors to me. I would meet all of her students via the print shop and remember how fondly they spoke of Jane. She was a loved  teacher and guide for these early classes. It seemed that with her assistance, a number of them went on to Yale, while others found their way directly into the art world with a very strong studio practice.
At the beginning of my second year, I was asked to give a presentation of prints to the all of the first year students in the then Foundation department. When I was asked to do so, I was called into my chairman’s office (Irwin Touster) along with Jane Wilson. I knew of Jane’s work before this meeting, but had never really sat down with her. During the meeting she was extremely helpful and encouraging, as I had never spoken in front of such a large gathering before. The presentation went  well, but what sticks out in my mind was how she congratulated me afterwards. I was not expecting her to be sitting amongst the students that day, and was so struck by the fact that she had made herself available to listen to my presentation. That day was the beginning of many many other talks about art, students and teaching that lasted through her time at Parsons.  She helped me grow as an artist and understand what it meant to teach. Many years after she left Parsons, I stayed in touch with her and have had the good fortune to enjoy her beautiful paintings through her exhibitions at DC Moore. Jane was an extraordinary painter and beautiful human being.”

Jane Wilson
DC Moore Gallery mourns the loss of Jane Wilson
The New York Times: Jane Wilson, Artist of the Ethereal, Dies at 90
The Paris Review: In Memoriam